Aurora, Colorado is our backyard…

…and so are Basra, Homs and Kandahar. We live in a global village, right?  Unfortunately, it’s easy for us to gasp in horror when we hear about a movie theatre shooting on the other side of our continent, or bombs blowing up hundreds of people in hot countries vaguely located “over there,” and just as easy for us to sigh and forget about what this means for those directly touched by the incident. We ignore and forget too easily. I would wager that the vast majority of Americans have no idea how to find Baghdad on a map, though thousands of Americans were killed and wounded in the Iraq war.

Why have I linked a shooting in Aurora with military actions in foreign countries? Guns. Violence. Our casualness about both. Youngsters are permitted to watch horrifically violent movies, but forbidden from seeing movies with a naked breast or dialogue that includes the “seven forbidden words.”  At 18, a young person can go off to war and kill people, but that same person cannot legally drink a beer. Something in this part of our culture just doesn’t compute for me.

Every time an incident like the one that took place in Aurora hits the news, I am confounded and baffled by our capacity to forget and our capacity to avoid real conversation about the subject. When I say “real conversation” I mean people of all points of view setting aside politics and how to leverage “gun control” or NRA support to promote an election campaign in order to talk to each other about the problem. No one in this country wants another Aurora. There, that’s the starting point for reasonable conversation.

My husband and I own a number of guns. I am not opposed to the responsible ownership of guns. I’m not arguing about the intent of the Second Amendment here. I am suggesting that maybe we should examine our custom of permitting access to assault weapons–access that is open to mentally ill people and angry young men as well as the general public.

Back to our collective amnesia about the aftermath of violence: what’s happened to the thousands of Americans wounded and maimed by the wars of the past decade? Where are they? How are they doing? Will the 12 in Aurora and the thousands who died or returned home wounded in war all slip into the dark closet at the back of our brains?

I don’t want to move along with my life without thinking about the 12 young people who died in a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado–and I don’t want to forget what killed them. Thanks to the New York Times, here are their pictures…let me say it once again, these young people were killed by a  young man, perhaps mentally ill, who LEGALLY acquired assault weapons:

Portraits of the Victims in Colorado

A gunman killed 12 and wounded 58 in a shooting during a midnight showing of the latest Batman installment. The victims included members of the military, an aspiring sportswriter and a 6-year-old girl. Click on the link to learn more about them. Related Article »

Jonathan T. Blunk, 26

Alexander Boik, 18

Jesse E. Childress, 29

Gordon W. Cowden, 51

Jessica Ghawi, 25

John Larimer, 27

Matthew R. McQuinn, 27

Micayla Medek, 23

Veronica Moser-Sullivan, 6

Alex M. Sullivan, 27

Alexander C. Teves, 24

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6 Comments on “Aurora, Colorado is our backyard…”

  1. Ken Hall says:

    Ellen, I applaud your reasoned and laudable article concerning the “reality” of the most recent mass killing in Colorado and the root enabler to most if not all such horrors which have transpired in the US, incredibly easy access to guns and munitions.

    As someone who who also owns several long guns, a lifetime NYS hunting and fishing license combination since 2007, participated in Viet Nam, spent 27+ years in or working for the US military, and had a younger bother whom died from a brain tumor which rendered him mentally unstable enough to have his NYS drivers license revoked but not enough to have his NYS pistol permit and .357 Magnum confiscated I agree with your contentions completely.

    Back in the mid to late 60’s I was attending CU, Boulder on a USAF scholarship and one night, late, I was wandering about in an all night K-Mart when I came upon a kiosk piled high with hand guns and ammo on sale. On a whim I made a decision to procure a Ruger single action 14 inch barrel .44 Magnum pistol and a couple of boxes of ammo. With same in my shopping cart I wheeled up to the cashier pulled out my NYS drivers license paid and walked out of the store. It would appear that the Colorado gun laws have not changed much since those days. I never fired that pistol and after thinking about it for a week or thereabouts I returned it and the ammo to K-Mart for a refund.

    If you have not yet done so, do a Google search on state gun laws or go to the Wiki page and peruse the hodgepodge of incredible variations of individual state gun laws. Although there are federal gun laws in effect which would appear to make the states gun laws somewhat irrelevant, in actuality the Feds literally rollover in deference to the individual state laws.

  2. trek says:

    Why would anyone (citizen) want to own an assault weapon? It’s a killing machine! I can understand gun ownership, and use for target practice or hunting or just collecting. These assault weapons seem to represent power to some.

  3. Michael Greer says:

    I received a call a few years ago, from the NRA. A friendly lady asked me if I would listen to a message from their leader, and I said “Sure, I’ll listen to anyone once.” Well, he went on about how Hillary Clinton and her henchman Chuck Schumer were planning to take our guns away, and we’d better be vigilant or they’d be after our other rights too, our firstborn, and our savings accounts if they had their way, and how would we stop them if we couldn’t shoot them etc. etc.

  4. Michael Greer says:

    anyhow…How did I get on this page? Anyhow, when the nice lady came back, she asked what I thought of their leaders message. I told her that they were using fear tactics, and that no intelligent person believed Hillary and Chuck had any such plan. I said that overstating their case only served to excite the already crazy, the ignorant and the racist factions of our country. I was really getting going when she hung up on me….which was all right, since she was disturbing our target practice.

  5. Ken Hall says:

    When I posted a much briefer version of Ellen’s article (above) as a comment to Brian Mann’s article “In the wake of the Aurora shootings, the uncontrollable urge to blather” (23 July) under “The In Box” blog in less than a day I was excoriated by as many as five of the regular posters to NCPR blogs. I was inferred to be: blathering, a fool, without dignity, trite, imitative, bathetic and lacking in restraint, thoughtfulness, empathy and knowing when to keep my mouth shut.

    What I find very interesting is that not one of these regular commenters has had the temerity to attempt to foist similar points of view upon Ellen in response to her article. As a Texas billionaire who thought he should be POTUS was wont to say “do ya foller me?”.

  6. jeff says:

    No one wants another Aurora nor wanted this one regardless of their support or opposition to firearms. This was a selfish man who was a lawbreaker. Timothy McVeigh was the same and used no firearms. 9/11 required no firearms. People who want to do bad things will find a way. Look at Meth labs and the tunnels across the southern border, lots of hard work and a lot of people die. People consider Sweden a sane country compared to ours but Anders Breivik was bent on murder for the sake of his selfish belief that he wanted to dictate what was proper. He acted on his own fears.

    Restricting firearms does not restrict those who want to commit mayhem. Remember sarin gas whose raw material is in flowerbeds across the country? Something has to prompt a person to do harm, for revenge or self-aggrandizement, for selfish reasons.

    Generally the second sentence in the conversation is; well how do we get the guns out of the hands of…….

    Cooling the tone of rhetoric and violence would probably help. Looking for the loners and drawing them out of their solitude could help. But that can’t be legislated, it takes lots of effort by everyone. No, lock up the guns and get on with life as it happens.

    A challenging example of cooling the tone was the reaction of the Amish community to the Nickel Mines shooting in Pennsylvania. It built trust and forgave which dispels resentment and revenge. What would have happened if we had taken a less hostile tone after 9/11 or against Saddam Hussein? The Amish brought on an attitude of self-control, not revenge.

    The conversation should focus on why people are violent. Some is taught through culture. Some is reaction to fears. Anger is fear in disguise. Fear stemming from many causes but generally concern for a threat or perceived threat. That doesn’t sound like the Aurora killer. But perception may not be reality and he sounds like he was in his own world, uncomfortable about something.

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